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By Nightfall

3.40  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,152 Ratings  ·  1,146 Reviews
Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (kn ...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2010)
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I Love New York City
124th out of 434 books — 270 voters
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The Green Carnation Prize
15th out of 74 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Maybe too subtle for me. The story is of a middle-aged art dealer in New York City, Peter, coming to question the value of his work and the solidity of his relationship with his wife, Rebecca. This dawning of doubt is stimulated by the arrival of her much younger brother who is living an aimless life with a track record of unstable relationships with women and men. In his mid-twenties and a Yale drop-out, he has just returned from a long spell mediating at a shrine in Japan. The story they get i ...more
Richard Kramer
Aug 12, 2012 Richard Kramer rated it it was amazing
Elegant, sexy, achingly familiar to the point that I had to put it down and say: He knows me. Is that really me?
What's it about? It's about how when you're young you long for and fear life at the same moment; when you're not young you regard the young, as happens here, and long for life and fear that your life has been spent. And then, finally, you learn to look away. The book is over before you know it, but it rides with you, next to you, on the subway, in the bus, in the elevator to your apart
John Arfwedson
Jan 04, 2011 John Arfwedson rated it did not like it
Here's the question Michael Cunningham needed to ask of his protagonist, Peter Harris, before starting this novel: if you had to do it all over again, would you still fall in love with yourself?

Peter, a study in self-absorption to the point of solipsism, is obsessed with himself and his malaise but in an intensely undramatic, uninteresting way. Part of this is conceptual. If you're going to write about the howling cliche of a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis, he had better be deep
Dec 17, 2010 christa rated it it was amazing
There must be a time when you have craved a combination of words that simply did not exist. You look for them -- in songs, in books, in blurbs here and there, and movie dialogue. It becomes exhausting. Frustrating, maybe even lonely. Flipping through more words, more quickly, and no one is saying the goddamn two sentence goose bump inducer that needs to be invented for this exact place in space You'd write it if you could, but if you could write it you probably wouldn't need it. If you could wri ...more
I know a book is brilliant when after I finish it a voice in my chest says, "Yes, I will read this again one day." This has happened with every book by Michael Cunningham I have read. 'A Home at the End of the World', 'The Hours', 'Flesh & Blood', and now 'By Nightfall.'

By Nightfall is a wonderful book, a beautiful book about art, New York, money, family, death. If you give yourself to it, you will find the doors of your perception cleansed. That is how we are able to experience beauty. To m
Nov 10, 2010 Tricia rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Most of this book takes place in Peter Harris's head, and not much "action" happens. So, I could see how a lot of people would get turned off by this book, and I'll admit that for most of it, I wasn't quite sure where it was heading or what the point of it was. On the surface, it might seem difficult to sympathize with this man who's problems include, but aren't limited to, that he finds his wife not as beautiful as she used to be, his college-age daughter isn't as brilliant or interesting as he ...more
Ally Armistead
Oct 19, 2010 Ally Armistead rated it liked it
Just finished reading Michael Cunningham's "By Nightfall," and I'm, well, underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong: Cunningham is a freaking amazing writer--a sentence-crafter that will make you sit up straight and say "holy crap; how does he think of these things?" But overall, as far as the story of Peter Harris is concerned, I am left with the taste of "meh" in my mouth. And damnit, I'm trying to figure out why. Part of it may have to do with the difficulty (MY difficulty) of finding empathy for the ...more
Jun 16, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
The best book I’ve read since—Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Feast of the Goat.” Really? Two masterpieces within a month? Karma is doing me a favor; Fortuna’s wheel, in my case, travels heavenward.

Wow. “By Nightfall.” Wow. I had very much forgotten about Cunningham, though I list him as my favorites, and now it is crystal clear why. I was uber-impressed by “Specimen Days,” a book the literati have literally forgotten. That was an exercise in genre mixing, of wild and fantastical flights of fancy. Thi
Oct 31, 2010 Bailey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2010
I loved this book, though I don't know that anyone else will. Very little happens, the narrator could be accused of being whiny, and the narration itself is at times over wrought. The tone is highly literary, and Cunningham frequently alludes to Joyce's Ulysses, Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Mann's Death in Venice, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and the real-life doomed affair of Rimbaud and Veralaine.

It reminded me of an Ian McEwan (swoon) novel in its slow inexorable pace, its plot deliciously filled out b
Catherine B.
Dec 28, 2010 Catherine B. rated it did not like it
I found this to be a very s-l-o-w read. The narrator of the book is unlikeable to me and too whiny for my taste. I could not bring myself to feel for the characters of the book. The ending was so anti-climatic, just go about your business.

This is not Cunninghma's best work.
Sep 29, 2015 TL rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars

Quote from the beginning of the book:
Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror. - Rainer Maria Rilke

Some beautiful writing:

"It's hard to say what he feels. He wishes it were as simple as sorrow for Bette. It's hollower than sorrow. It's a deep loneliness muddled up with some underlayer of jittery fear, who knows what to call it, but he wants to see his wife, he wants to curl up with her, maybe watch something stupid on TV, let the world go dark for the night, let it fall. "

The si
Feb 14, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
Michael Cunningham can write the sh*t out of some books. If I could, I would have put this at 4.5 stars, but I can't so I'm rounding up. I blazed through this very quickly. Which is actually a shame with Cuninngham's work because he is such a smart writer and I know I'm missing a lot of what he's up to from a literary standpoint. But his knack for characters and dialogue catches me every time and I just have to know what happens to these people.

I've skimmed a couple of other reviewers who didn'
Jun 06, 2012 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
I actually wrote this review out on paper first. I wanted to make sure I got this review right.

Before I read By Nightfall, I had never read a Cuningham novel. Little did I realize, I was in for a surprise.

When I read the premise for By Nightfall, I have to admit, I wasn't jumping up and down with excitement. It sounded intriguing enough, and I knew Michael Cunningham was, or is, pretty well-known, so, I decided to give it a shot. I am glad I did.

We meet a couple in their forties, Peter and Re
Greg Zimmerman
Mar 12, 2011 Greg Zimmerman rated it it was ok
Midway through Michael Cunnigham's slim new novel, By Nightfall, a character describes a rich woman's expensively decorated living room as " magnificent it transcends its own pretensions." That's also a good description for what Cunningham must've hoped his novel would be. But since it's not exactly magnificent, we're pretty much left with just pretentious. And the novel, though well-crafted, sure is that.

But the novel failed for another reason, too: Its protagonist is an utter dolt. Far be
Bill Krieger
Nov 06, 2011 Bill Krieger rated it it was ok
This is a story about malaise. And whining. It's the malaise that accompanies privilege and success and middle age too, I guess. It's a very whiny story about a whiny guy. The main character is a successful art dealer in Manhattan. He's middle age and yet still brimming with teen angst. Most of the characters in the book are completely self-absorbed. Blech.

I thought Cunningham's writing style was OK. The book was a light and fast read, and the ending was not bad. But it's a tough slog when you h
Sep 26, 2010 Kristin rated it it was ok
I was so excited for the new Michael Cunningham. I thought The Hours, A Home at the End of the World, and Specimen Days were all wonderful. By Nightfall has the same beautiful prose, but it lacks many elements that make the others great.

For one, the characters just aren't that likable. In every other one of his novels, I could find something to relate to or sympathize with in every man, woman, gay, straight, young, old, contemporary, historic person. In By Nightfall, I found Peter to be pathetic
Dec 25, 2010 Dinah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, novels, new-york
Michael Cunningham: count on this guy to rip your heart out every damn time. This might be my favorite yet. Kept me up all night on Christmas after the biggest, sleepiest-to-digest meal in recent memory because I just couldn't put it down.

What is there to say? His prose is absolutely delicious, maybe even more so in a novel where Cunningham isn't vying for rhetorical space with one of the many poets in his homage-based pieces. Of course it's always Cunningham, in every book, but this one leaves
Lars Guthrie
Mar 13, 2011 Lars Guthrie rated it it was ok
Fiction is about finding truth in imagination. That gives writers license to occupy someone else’s time or milieu, to be whom they are not—another class, another gender, another race.

The test is readers’ belief. Characters have to be real. They must do what they do because of what they are, rather than doing what the writer wants to prove he can make them do.

Perhaps Michael Cunningham felt that a challenging test of his ability to make his readers believe was to write about a straight man sudde
Jason Pettus
Mar 03, 2011 Jason Pettus rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This is my first novel by the much-loved Michael Cunningham, although I'm already familiar with the plot of his Pulitzer-winning The Hours (which will be getting reviewed itself later this year, as part of the "CCLaP 100" essay series), and I also once had a chance when younger to read the first 50 pages o
Jan 21, 2012 Nicola rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lgbt, gift
Oh, yay: another novel about a rich white dude who works in Manhattan’s art world! I’ve never read any other literary fiction like this!

(Heavy sarcasm.)

The rich white dude in question is Peter, a (happily?) married man who is thrown off-kilter by a visit from his wife’s beautiful, (recovering?) drug addict brother, Mizzy. Dot dot dot. (No spoilers, but this is Cunningham – of course there’s tortured gay love!)

There are elements of a good story here, and Cunningham’s beautiful prose is in full ef
Aug 16, 2015 hayden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got sucked into this SO HARD.

more thoughts to come later.
Jan 29, 2011 T4ncr3d1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: statunitensi
"La maggior parte della gente è convinta di non essere come la maggior parte della gente."

Mi stupisce e un po' mi addolora scoprire così tanti giudizi tendenti al negativo sulla nuova fatica letteraria di Cunningham. Certo, ormai siamo ben lontani da quel gran capolavoro che fu Le Ore, e tutti i supposti grandi scrittori riescono difficilmente a sopravvivere ai loro capolavori. Eppure, rivendico la mia posizione fuori dal coro, e sono pronto a difendere questo romanzo che, seppur distante annilu
Apr 02, 2013 Jane rated it it was amazing
(Update, 4/2/13: reading Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just, in which she urges that not only does beauty not distract us from justice, but leads us to embrace it -- she writes, "anyone who sets out in the morning to defend beauty will surely by nightfall have arrived at the strategy of claiming that beauty assists justice," and I think that Cunningham's book acts out a number of premises embedded in her theory of aesthetics -- the search for beauty here distracts Peter from the good, but ...more
K2 -----
Oct 03, 2010 K2 ----- rated it it was ok
A friend mentioned this book to me and I was excited to read it as I have read many of Cunningham's other books.

I was disappointed. Overall felt it should have been a short story. There simply wasn't enough "there" there and although this was a theme in the book. It's not a book the shell out for in hardcover and I kept reading hoping it would redeem itself.

Peter, is a middle aged art dealer married to Rebecca, an editor, who live in NYC. Their daughter has recently dropped out of college to w
Katie O'Rourke
Jul 28, 2012 Katie O'Rourke rated it it was ok
I love Michael Cunningham. I thought The Hours was genius, even enjoyed his rough first stab at writing with A Home at the End of the World, but my all-time favorite was Flesh and Blood.

Unfortunately, By Nightfall was missing the essential connection to the characters that made those books so great. Peter is vapid and self-obsessed. He’s a wealthy, white man living in New York City and finding his pampered life just slightly underwhelming. I found myself hoping some huge catastrophe would befal
Feb 12, 2011 Schmacko rated it it was amazing
Michael Cunningham can sure turn a phrase. In his hands, the most self-involved of ideas –that of an fairly privileged Manhattan gallery owner coming to grips with aging and mortality – can read like pure poetry. Take a moment early in the book, a moment when protagonist Peter Harris goes with a business associate Bette to visit a display at the Whitney Museum. Peter is just starting to acknowledge his middle ages, and he knows Bette is quitting the business because the 60-something has breast c ...more
Emily Yelencich
Mar 02, 2011 Emily Yelencich rated it really liked it
Shelves: western-lit
As usual, Michael Cunningham delivers a beautiful representation of poignant human character. By Nightfall lands in the category of somewhat self-involved upper-middle class angst that I've been reading so much of lately. Cunningham walks a finer line than the others (like On Beauty, or Freedom), never quite giving way to complete degeneration, making it more relatable and potentially more haunting.

I particularly liked the emphasis on Peter Harris' struggle with youth aging. Through the charact
Richard Stacey
Oct 28, 2011 Richard Stacey rated it it was ok
Cunningham barely got me through this rather lazily written book where very little happens and where I was was left struggling hard to care about any of the rather hazily drawn characters.

The plot: a middle aged art dealer gets romantically obsessed with his wife's little brother.

The big problem is the narrative- it is overly self-conscious. It is full of constant asides to tell (not show) us the reason for this or that aspect of human behaviour. At first it seems rather sex and the city hip an
Feb 18, 2012 Rebeccahowden rated it it was amazing
It would be difficult for anything to compare to Michael Cunningham’s utterly beautiful Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Hours, but his latest offering has that same dark and poignant charm, and is equally, if not more so, compelling.

By Nightfall is about finding beauty and desire in surprising places – and what happens when that desire is focused on objects that don’t deserve it. The story is narrated by Peter Harris, a gallery-owner stuck in a quiet sort of midlife crisis. He goes about his da
May 17, 2011 Michelle rated it liked it
This was a difficult book to read. Cunningham is such a wonderful writer that I would probably read his grocery store lists if he published them but ... this was painful. The portrait of a middle-aged man who has everything except....passion......there were points at which it almost listed into boredom. Who cares about this man and his wife ...who, in answer to the question, Are you comfortable? Could indeed respond, "I make a living," but who cannot really be said to be living. But......Cunning ...more
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this is what AmazonUK says of this book 3 59 Nov 03, 2013 01:32AM  
  • Remembrance of Things I Forgot
  • Jack Holmes and His Friend
  • Punainen erokirja
  • The Story of the Night
  • The Spell
  • Changing Tides
  • The World of Normal Boys
  • The Wake of Forgiveness
  • Homosexuality & Civilization
  • When You Don't See Me
  • Grief
  • The Lost Language of Cranes
  • Mother of Sorrows
  • On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual
  • The Men from the Boys
  • Calendar Girl
  • The Thieves of Manhattan
  • Back Where He Started
Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of 2014. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.
More about Michael Cunningham...

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“Insomniacs know better than anyone how it would be to haunt a house.” 34 likes
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